2021 SSSA South African Nationals Welkom

18m, Open and Sportsman's Class 11 to 19.12.2021

Compiled and with photos by Willie Bodenstein

The Soaring Society of South Africa (SSSA) is an organisation aimed at supporting gliding in South Africa for its members and gliding friends abroad. It also promotes flying development and competition soaring. The SSSA National Championships are usually split into two events'; the 15m, 2-Seater and Club Class that is normally held late September and early October at Potchefstroom airfield while the 18m, Open and Sportsman's Class is held early in December at Welkom Airport.

These competitions are usually run over seven to nine days and attending on all days can be a costly affair with accommodation and other related expenses. So, this year, with the weather looking decidedly iffy, I decided to only attend on Thursday the 16th and Friday the 17th returning home on Saturday the 18th.

Saturday 11 December

A practice day was the start of the Society's 2021 Nationals for Open, 18m. & Sportsman classes, again held at Welkom airfield. A mandatory Pilots' Briefing was held and which saw some pilots attending via Zoom as the weather had prevented them from aero-towing to the field. The bad news was that the weather for Sunday did not look promising.

Sunday 12 December

As expected, the weather did not play ball, only clearing sufficiently so that a contingent of gliders from Potchefstroom were at least able to aerotow through to Welkom. Since the weather was not looking good towards the 1st turn point of the day's task and the first of the competition, out-landing conditions were questionable and with all the rain and very wet fields, it was decided to cancel flying; a sensible decision.

Monday 13 December

During the briefing, it was agreed that a decision would be taken by 12h00 latest as to whether it would be possible to grid and launch or not. Unfortunately, although the weather remained dry at the airfield and there was some clearing to the SW, there was also a lot of weather coming over the airfield from the north and eastern parts and it was decided to cancel the day's tasks.

However, Murphy's law was as per usual at work; after the day was cancelled, it actually became quite a nice flying day with some of the contest pilots launching to get some practise in.

Tuesday 14 December

The weather had improved, but the first launch planned for 12h30 didn't happen and was delayed until 13h00. That was again delayed until eventually the grid began shortly after 13h30. By this time of course, the day's task was going to be shorter if the pilots were to get back before the possible line of storms was expected to arrive by 17h00. The task was changed to the A task with an AAT of 2 hours duration, a 15-kilometre radius around Regina and a 25-kilometre radius around Leeudoringstad for a total distance of 291.30 km

The JS2 Revenant, which had its maiden flight on 26 March of this year and was flying in its first competition with Attie Jonker at 122.43 kph, took first place followed by brother Uys at 122.26 kph in a JS3 with Oscar Goudriaan at 121.54 kph, also in a JS3, in third place.

Wednesday 15 December

Lots and lots of thunder and lightning during the night, but somewhat surprisingly, there were blue skies and sunshine in the morning. However, clouds were building on the horizon. This fortunately cleared and the first gliders were launched at 14h05. The task was changed to task B, which was still a 2-hour AAT but to Leeudoringstad (35 Kilometre radius) - Kroonstad (20 Kilometre radius) with a minimum of 142,7 km/maximum 382,9 km.

At 16h45, the last competitor landed back at the airfield. Finishing in 1st place was John Coutts at 122.97 km/h in the JS3TJ with Switzerland's Yves Gester at 121.93 km/h in a similar glider in 2nd place and Riaan Denner at 117.90 km/h in a JSC 1 Revelation in 3rd place.

Thursday 16 December

The 5th day of the nationals and after just the 2 days' flying, Attie Jonker led with 1149 points, 2nd was John Coutts on 1125 points and 3rd Yves Gerster on 1109 points.

I arrived at a cloudy Witbank and the pilots that I spoke to were generally pessimistic about the changes of launching. There was still a lot of moisture coming in from the east, north and down from Botswana. However, there was a small window for a small task.

To take advantage of this opportunity and to get a third task completed, gliders needed to be gridded by 11h30 with first launch by 12h00. The task set was a 1 hr. 30 min. AAT with a 147,7 Kilometre minimum and a 299.1 Kilometre maximum routing to Welkom - Alllanridge (15 Kilometre radius) - Steynsrus (25 Kilometre radius) - Control S - Welkom.

Just after 16h00 and the gliders were all safely home, including one out-landing. As was expected, the heavens opened but at least the three task qualifications had been reached. The results were tallied with Magalies Gliding Club's John Coutts averaging 114.17 km/h in his JS3TJ and bagging first. He was followed By AKA Vlieg's Uys Jonker averaging 110.95 km/h in another TJ with lady pilot Katrin Seme and Arnaud de Broqueville, both from Germany at 102.86 km/h sharing third with the Cape Gliding Club's Sven Olivier in his JS1 Revelation.

That put John Coutts in the lead with 1510 points, Attie Jonker with 1479 points second and brother Uys with 1431 points in third.

Friday 17 December

I woke up and looking out the window and saw, to my amazement, clear skies! When I arrived at the airport, it was the same although the wind was seriously pumping. The day's briefing was scheduled for 10h00 during which it became clear that an early launch would be in the offing which saw pilots rushing to their aircraft and the start line. Launching was planned for 12h00 and for a chance, the task for the day was a racing task of 243,4 km. - Welkom start - Ancona - Bultfontein - Hennenan - Welkom. Having a look at the weather again, the contest director changed this to the B task, a 2 hr. AAT, with the same turn points.

All pilots landed safely except that during the task, some had to use their engines. Yves Gerster managed to win the day with 99,47 kph and a distance of 233.05 kilometres. Uys Jonker was on his heels with 99.16 kph and a distance of 245,11 km while Nico Le Roux finished in third at 90.10 kph and a distance off 223,02 km.

The overall standings were now extremely close with Uys Jonker leading on 1992 points. John Coutts was only three points behind with 1989 while Yves Gerster was 15 points adrift in third.

Saturday 18 December

The second to last day of the competition. When I left Welkom at 07h00 for home, it was totally overcast and remained like that all the way back to the big smoke. Back at Welkom it became clear that again the weather will preclude any aircraft from being launched.

Sunday 19 December

Sadly, not a flying day, so prize giving was held at 10h30 and for those that was still there was a lamb on the spit.

This year's SA National Champion is AKA Vliegklub's Uys Jonker who finished the competition on 1992 points. Magaliesburg Gliding Club's John Coutts on 1989 points was placed second with Switzerland's Yves Gerster on 1974 points in third.

Many thanks to the SSSA for hosting Pilots Post at their nationals. Working tirelessly behind the scenes were Laurence Hardman the contest director, safety Sven Olivier, task setting a combination of Laurence, Oscar Goudriaan and John Coutts, met-man John Coutts, tug pilots John Attwell, Connie Conradie, Tyrome Rees as well as Riaan Denner and Jason Adriaan who also flew a few tows. Ian Buchanan as runway marshal, as well as Tiaan, Udo & Mathys who ran around on the runway getting the ropes, running wings, and generally helping. Then the trusty Abel who was behind the bar and keeping the clubhouse neat and tidy and cleaned. Thanks too to Dirk Smit, Chairman of Goldfields Gliding Club and the Club for hosting the event and many thanks also to Carol Clifford for numerous other tasks and without whose assistance and help this report would not have been possible.

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